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Need for Standard Instruments

Regardless of the strategies used, there is a need for standard instruments that are valid and reliable. With such measures, relevant attitudes of target populations could be measured before and after campaigns to obtain objective indices of the range of success for each of the various forums and strategies (e.g., Zavecz & Halasz, 2001). This information could be used to improve future public awareness/education or advocacy activities, not only for the conditions targeted in specific campaigns, but also for other stigmatizing conditions. Whereas excellent research has been carried out with existing surveys, e.g., in the area of mental illness (Crisp, Gelder, Goddard, & Meltzer, 2005; Thompson, Howard & Jin, 2001), it is difficult to compare findings across investigations. A necessary step in developing a science of reducing stigma involves the development of quantitative and qualitative methods that can investigate and measure the range of severity of stigma within and between conditions as well as its temporal variability. Such measurement can become the base for estimating the effectiveness of interventions (Weiss & Ramakrishna, 2002). As noted above, even though the literature contains numerous survey reports in specific countries, few standard and widely accepted public opinion instruments have been used to measure public attitudes across a diverse variety of human conditions or attributes in different countries and in different languages. The IPATHA initiative seeks to take that important step.

In the case of stuttering, until recent research using the POSHA-S, no standard measures have been widely used to examine public opinions and attitudes or to establish baseline data against which to measure changes in attitudes, beliefs, and reactions. There are at least two important implications for this lack of baseline data. First, it has been impossible to determine which communities, regions, and societies are more or less knowledgeable or negative in their views about stuttering and therefore, where education efforts might be targeted. Second, without baseline data it is difficult to determine if public education initiatives have achieved their desired effects.